Hikari: What's up my fellow YGO lovers? Well, the lovely Shadow and I have decided to collaborate on an amazing story whose plot she came up with. (laughs) She'll be updating, but we'll both be writing. Also don't forget to check out our numerous other works, and the new fics we're both planning on updating… eventually. Shadow, care you a say?

Shadow: 'Kariagreed to write this me, and I'm forever thankful. I've too many plot bunnies to deal with right now, and I've placed myself under severe order that I'm not allowed to work with 'em until at least get some of my other fics sorted out. So…there's that. As Hikari said, both of us are writing this, and I'm quite pleased at how well our styles fit together. (Dare you to spot who wrote what.) Anyways, I'm off, and a cheery good morning – to those at least vaguely in or near the Greenwich time zone – to you all.

Summary: To take a mortal's life is considered a great sin. To take a god's, and to hold it, is a crime beyond all reckoning, and one's soul will most definitely pay the price. But…what if one is incapable of losing a soul – what then?

In the beginning, there was Darkness, and from darkness light and reason rose, as well as those who would oppose it… The balance of power is forever changing, and resentment towards those that divide it is often rife. It never takes much for one to decide to readdress the balance, and for cunning minds to take advantage of the gods having turned their back on Man. If the gods did not smile on mortals…who would?

Yet…he would not be placated. He, who ruled over his Realm of Nothingness, one-twelfth of the night, wanted more. The Darkness ruled his realm with a tighter grip than he, and he wanted to feel a flicker of something he once called emotion

And so he took the One of Shadows, the true eternal ruler. And somebody wants him back.

Disclaimer: Shadow over Egypt and Hikari Daeron do not own Yu-Gi-Oh! or anything related to the anime/manga – that is the right of its creator, Kazuki Takahashi. Nor do they own Lord of the Rings, or any obscure reference to any other story. They also do not own the Egyptian deities, although the antagonist in this story is theirs. They exclusively own the plot of this piece. And any resemblance to another fanfiction is purely coincidental.

Hikari: And now without further ado…

Combined Silence

Chapter I

"Fell deeds await... Now for wrath... Now for ruin... and a red dawn..."

(Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers)

In the beginning there was Darkness, and this darkness was the darkness of Nun. From Nun rose reason, the Hidden One rising from chaos to bring order and life to the shadows. Thus the world was created by the Great One's will, and was given to His divine descendants to care for, its people to watch over and protect.

The people prayed to the ones who cared for them, and the gods were benevolent. Nations flourished and grew, and the people of the earth spread across ta-mery, their blessed land. They were guided by their gods from their births till their deaths, and upon reaching the West, taken by the hand and led through Duat's grim darkness to the light of Aalu – Osiris' kingdom-, where the pure of heart would dwell forevermore.

As time passed though, nations crumbled. The gods seemed to fade away and abandon the world, and Nun stole across ta-mery's sands and into the hearts of men. Shadows grew, and men meddled where they should not have. Monsters rose at the beckoning of reckless souls, and war and rebellion raged. Eons later, I truly fail to see what is so different now.

The world is…a rotten place. It is full of chaos, and darkness, and deceit. Men lie to one another; they shoot, and hurt, and kill. But…there is light on earth. Hope, in the hearts of small children; faith, in sweet prayers uttered by the pure. Justice is grappled with and fought for, and the innocent are protected as best as can be by many. People are slowly, oh so slowly, realising what corruption they live in, and are striving for a better place. Like the Great One before them, they try to pull order from chaos and light from gloom.

Ah... the dawn approaches. A vague feeling of anticipation rests on this barren soil, which will be ground eternally into the mud – ruined. It feels as if it has been such a long time since I saw a real dawn... since I sat upon my window's edge and stared out into the everlasting oblivion of the universe. This dawn, however realistic it seems, cannot be real. The ever-dancing multitudes of colour that flicker upon its tendrils cannot exist, just as the radiant brilliance it brings cannot be justified. If it were real, then everything I know to be true would fade away into nothingness, a figment of past and imagination.

But perhaps it was for the best. After all, had I not chosen this fate, the world would have collapsed into ash, turned into bite-sized rubble of despair. For the pure, I could not let that happen. Besides, is it not better this way? The entire land is mine to roam –though I am guarded constantly, of course-, and I bring strange happiness wherever I go. The others are shielded away from the aura of destruction I tend to carry with me constantly; they are no longer in any danger from the numerous madmen that seem to stalk my footsteps, nor any other evil that scours the earth. They cannot be harmed by my lack of knowledge, of understanding; they will no longer be dragged into a whirlwind mess of pain and terror. If I am secluded from them, and the rest of the world, perhaps they can finally be at ease. They deserve it – I have pained them far too long.

Yet...I cannot help but be unhappy here. There is no soul, no heart in this place. The Heart of the Cards that beats so strongly with mine is nonexistent. The spirits that guarded me and those nearest to me have disappeared, snatched cruelly away from my out-grasped hands. I cannot touch the Shadows, nor reach out to the Millennium Item holders. My partner has been taken from me, and my soul feels empty without him by my side. Perhaps worst of all, I cannot see anything. This land... yes, it is true that my presence has brought light upon it, allowed it to blossom and grow... yet I cannot see. It is not easy to explain. When I stare at something, I see it, and yet I do not. It is like a hologram that Kaiba was unable to perfect, flickering in and out of my psyche. Should I stretch my hand out to touch it, it will no doubt crumble to grey ash on my fingertips. Occasionally this provides some mild form of entertainment, but it is so weak that it lasts for mere moments. And when these mirages disappear? I am left wandering a barren wasteland, a place of lost innocence and a fool's fears. Once upon a time, perhaps, there was love and true beauty that blossomed within these confines, but it has long since died out. And if I am the only true life in this world, then how am I to live up to what I was born to? I, too, have a purpose – yet trapped in this desolate land, how can I fulfil it, live the remainder of my unnatural life to its fullest?

There was no other way. I know this, and so I can only tell myself what I did was for the best. Cold comfort in an even colder land, where even the fire of the dawn fails to warm my chilled soul. What I did was for the best, for the greater good. Yet…this darkness about me refuses to dispel right now. The sun here should rise presently, and I shall have to place my doubts once more to the side, lest I drive myself mad. But right now…before dawn, I can allow the darkness outside to reflect the darkness within. I can let my shadows gather, because it is always darkest before dawn, wherever you are.

It is always the darkest before the dawn, and this dawn is never real...

A good three months before the entire Millennium World fiasco, not long after the mess in America with DOMA and Kaiba's grand Championship, Yami Bakura, the spirit whose soul inhabited Ryou Bakura's Millennium Ring, 'died' – again. Even by that point it was becoming quite a habit – the yami had died twice before in front of Yugi-tachi's eyes, and he must've suffered some form of death to end up trapped in the Ring in the first place. (Joey once remarked that the Spirit of the Ring was rather like this malicious, perpetual boomerang – he always came back. Yami had whole-heartedly agreed with the blonde, but his metaphor for the thief had been more along the lines of an annoying piece of chewing gum that got stuck to your shoe – Yugi had recently introduced the pharaoh to the stuff about that time, and Yami had quickly discovered the annoyance of said sticky stuff being attached to the heel of your footwear.)

But yes. That was the summer in which Yami Bakura – or simply Bakura, as he had come to be known – left them all for the nth time. It was a long, lazy summer, slowly blending in with autumn in hot golden days that seemed to stretch on into forever. The trials of America were behind Yugi and his group of friends, and they were all determined to have some fun – and actually play some games that didn't involve the potential loss of lives, souls or Items. Everyone had plans.

Téa was working extra hard at her part-time job, and had earned herself a pay rise. She still had ambitions to go to New York and study dance after she'd finished high school, and summer was a great time for her to build up cash.

Yugi was using his time to help his grandpa out in the game shop. Solomon Mouto appreciated the help, and business - for a small store – was booming. Things got even better when Joey came around as usual to help, and both he and Yugi wandered about Domino when they weren't working. Yami, inside the Puzzle about Yugi's neck, was quite content with life about that time, and set about using his summer to rebuild relations with his hikari.

Joey came over to the game store nearly every day to help Yugi and Yugi's grandpa. It was a usual summer thing benefited both sides: - Joey kept out of the way of his alcoholic father (not to mention getting free food off Yugi's jii-chan while he was there), and Solomon gained some extra help around the shop. Joey was either out with Yugi or Tristan when he wasn't working, or both of them, or the entire group when someone succeeded in coaxing Ryou along.

Ryou tried to keep himself very much to himself, when he could. It wasn't that he didn't like Yugi, Joey, Tristan and Téa – actually, quite the opposite was true -, it was just…well, Bakura. The former thief couldn't be trusted anywhere near Yugi and his friends, even if he had been rather quiet ever since Battle City. He was still there – Ryou could feel him.

Bakura, to spite his hikari, was quite close enough to Yugi's little group – at its very heart, so to speak. Ever since he'd placed a piece of his soul within it the Millennium Puzzle had been his to roam, and Bakura was planning on making full use of his time to explore the pharaoh's labyrinth of a mind. No-one knew of his illicit wanderings in the pharaoh's Puzzle, and who was he to waste such a golden opportunity? Tristan had gotten himself a summer job at the local garage. He enjoyed his work there, and they did free maintenance on his mini-scooter. It was a win-win situation – plus, he thought he looked rather fit in his overalls. Maybe…if he built up some more impressive muscles…he could attract Serenity?

Marik was in Domino for a few weeks. He was really most reluctant to be there, considering the mayhem he'd caused last time he was on Japanese soil, but Ishizu had needed someone she could trust to supervise the delivery of some exhibits to Egypt from the local museum. It sucked, as Marik had been planning on tinkering with his motorbike some more, but it was for his sister so… Damn, he had to be getting soft.

Kaiba and his little brother were still in America. Kaibaland was up and running smoothly now the Von Schroeders were out of the way, and Kaiba merely had a few last minute meetings to attend to check everything would continue to run that well after he returned to Japan. He'd still keep in close contact with the park of course via phone and email, but the majority of the work for once would be relying upon an employee – Kaiba himself was rather surprised at this, unused to giving an underling of his such responsibility, but Mokuba had begged for it – pleaded – and when Kaiba had continued to be stubborn, set his foot down with all the authority of a vice-president and demanded Seto think logically about his decisions. Seto had faltered then…and Mokuba had thrown in his large puppy-eyes as well, and his older brother had caved. Grumbling, Kaiba had offered one of his more trusted American employees a promotion to Head of the Park, and then withdrew to go scare some more poor unsuspecting souls in the boardrooms of America. Really…the poor dears never knew what hit them.

Oddly enough… everything was peaceful. Finally, after years of trials and torment, this group of friends were living a fun, carefree, normal summer. They hadn't been real teenagers for so long… now, at long last, seemed the perfect opportunity to fully exploit the meaning of the word "adolescent" (even if Kaiba did own a multinational corporation – somehow Mokuba convinced him that he could be a CEO and occasionally enjoy himself outside work too). Joey and Tristan were fully aware of their position as male teenagers, and would exploit this fact, even as Téa grew indignant and Yugi embarrassed. Yami, of course, looked upon their forms of entertainment with confused eyes. Needless to say, the day he learned the definition of pornography – with visual aid, of course – was an interesting day indeed.

Everything was finally as it should have been. No monsters, no villains, no desperate desire to save the world and rid mankind of a new form of evil. No Egyptian legends, no age-old rivalries (besides the usual Yami-Kaiba fights), no ancient hatreds resurrected in order to destroy the Pharaoh and his friends. Shadi was quiet, wherever he was, and Ishizu didn't have the urge to bow and say, "My Pharaoh" every time Yami passed – partially because she was on another continent at the time but, whatever. Yami didn't bother Kaiba about magic, and Kaiba didn't bother Yugi or Yami about their Egyptian God Cards or their duelling title (outside a few "I should be King of Games, you amateur!"). Even Téa, usually the most curious and perceptive of the group when it came to Pharaoh, was quiet about her feelings and questions. And of course, Joey and Tristan still continued to devour anything in sight. Everything was… normal.

Pity it wasn't to last.

Hikari: T'ra! We worked hard on this one. Hope you liked it!